It’s the time of year when many people are setting health goals, and since I have a medical background, people often ask what I recommend. (This is where you are to ignore what I look like in favor of what I know to be true.)
1. Practice Mindful Eating:
- Use a food diary — Time and again it’s been proven that the simple act of recording every item to pass your lips is a powerful method of creating change in eating habits. It’s even more powerful if paired with a source of external accountability, such as a partner, group, dietician or physician.
- Eat at the table and not in front of any screen.
- Keep unhealthy foods out of the house OR, if you have other people who want to keep your “danger” foods in the home, keep them pre-divided into portions and out of sight.
- Keep variety in your fruits and vegetables and make them accessible.
- A book I highly recommend: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.
2. If you’re going to follow a calorie-counting plan, make it Weight Watchers.
Our weight is a function of calories in versus calories out. Period. No exception.
Of all the commercial plans available to consumers, it’s the one that has been proven to be maximally effective in the longterm.
3. If you don’t want to count calories, use the principles of calorie density.
This is my preference, honestly. It works on the principle that our appetites are as exquisitely sensitive to our body’s requirements as our thirst. It’s elegant, simple, and effective. The single best person I know to explain the science and its application is Jeff Novick. I recommend this video. (Standard disclaimer that I have no financial interest in any of the resources I’m recommending.)
If you wish to see him in action, here’s a Youtube video in which he discusses some of the information available on his DVD:
Jeff has a place on the forums at Dr. McDougall’s website, which I also recommend. The latter is sounds militant but knows his science. (If I were unable to negotiate the health research literature myself and needed someone to interpret it for me, this would be my Go To site. There’s a newsletter, active forums, and Jeff presides over a section. The stickies at the top are invaluable.)
I’ve listed this last for a simple reason: ten minutes of unmindful eating can cancel an hour or more of vigorous activity. Having said that, exercise is a gateway activity to healthful behaviors for me and many others. It boosts endorphins, self-esteem, and can provide the time to recommit to other, helpful endeavours.
If you’re never going to be a creature of the gym, consider buying a pedometer. Walking is an excellent exercise, and pedometers are inexpensive, simple, and objective. (In other words, you can no longer lie to yourself about your real activity level.)
Start by recording the number of steps you take every day for a full week. Then figure out your average steps per day and then gradually increase it, until you’re routinely achieving 10,000 steps per day.
The two brands recommended in the health literature are the Digiwalker (available at New Lifestyles and other venues) and the Omron. Make sure you get one with a safety strap and with a cover plate so that the buttons can’t be accidentally reset.
Note: ideally a fitness program should also address strength, flexibility, and balance, but we’re going for the basics here.
Question: Are you setting a weight-related goal for yourself this year? If so, what are your plans?